For Hugh Douglas-Murray, the start of his passion for ceramics began serendipitously, when a visit to Barcelona sparked an enduring interest in tile-making. At the time, he was working behind the scenes in Toronto’s film industry, but this spark ignited and led him to enroll, at the age of 32, in Sheridan’s Ceramics program. After graduating in 1995, he was hired as the program technologist, a role he has dedicated himself to ever since.
A visit to the Sheridan Ceramics Studio reveals a staggering array of state-of-the-art equipment and materials, all managed and maintained by Douglas-Murray. There’s a wide variety of kilns – wood-fired, salt, pit, raku, computer-controlled and car kilns – all used at various times by the 35 students in the program looking to achieve different effects with their finished creations. A well-stocked storage room houses over 350 materials, including silica, calcium, talc and stains, reflecting the historical evolution of Ceramics, this most ancient and yet contemporary art form.
“I see my role as complementing and supporting the teaching and learning experience” – Hugh Douglas-Murray
Douglas-Murray’s support for students goes well beyond studio maintenance. “I see my role as complementing and supporting the teaching and learning experience,” he says. “I’ll give advice to students about using the equipment, mixing glazes and so on, but I won’t get involved in their aesthetic decision-making process.” The payoff for Douglas-Murray comes with the graduate exhibition each year, when he can see the tangible progress the students have made since first year.
Over the course of his career at Sheridan, he’s also been a relentless advocate for the program, making significant improvements over the years to enhance studio safety features and provide a better experience for the students. Just this past summer, he arranged for the purchase and installation of a wood-cutting machine, doing away with the need for students to wield axes to chop up lumber for the wood-fired kiln.
As Douglas-Murray puts it, he’s responsible for “the bones of the place”, but his commitment runs far deeper than that. Despite efforts by other art colleges over the years to recruit his expertise, he has chosen to stay here. Why? “It’s all about our students. They’re fully committed to learning, and they let you know that you’re a part of their success.”
Pictured at top of page: Sheridan Technologist Hugh Douglas-Murray. Photo by Sheridan Photography Technologist Owen Colborne.
Written by: Susan Atkinson, Manager of Media Relations and Communications at Sheridan.